“Who killed Davey Moore?”


“You know, Gene used to, in the darkroom sometimes, put a red filter on a TV set so he could watch some of the games, some of the football or baseball games.  And some people are just horrified at this, that it sounds a lot better if he was just listening to music.  But you know, when you’re living, you do normal stuff.” -Carole Thomas

On November 13, 1961 American boxer Davey Moore fought a rematch versus Japanese challenger Kazuo Takayama, successfully defending his title as the Featherweight Champion of the World. The bout took place in Tokyo, where W. Eugene Smith was on extended assignment via Cosmo Public Relations on behalf of Hitachi. During the broadcast, Smith made a recording of the scene in his Roppongi apartment, which doubled as his studio. Smith is audible directing some of his Japanese assistants in the darkroom, where they are listening to and maybe watching the event. He also checks in with them about the results, since he’s presumably working in an adjoining room.

Sadly, Davey Moore would die on March 25, 1963 from injuries sustained in a boxing match four days prior. The event made worldwide news and both Phil Ochs and Bob Dylan wrote songs about it. Dylan’s song “Who Killed Davey Moore?” was covered by Pete Seeger, a brief  roommate of Smith’s in the 30′s. Each of these songwriters have songs that show up on Smith’s recordings. And Dylan and Seeger might have also been in Smith’s loft, though we haven’t confirmed it.

A 21 year old Bob Dylan played Town Hall in New York on April 12, 1963. And he played “Who Killed Davey Moore?” Robert Shelton’s New York Times article seems to be  reintroducing Dylan to the masses almost 2 years after his landmark September 29, 1961 review of Dylan at Gerde’s Folk City. In the later article, Shelton compares Dylan to Holden Caulfield, Woody Guthrie, Rimbaud, and Yevtushenko. The following year is when loft veteran Daniel Kramer began photographing  Bob Dylan. We’re excited to have Kramer visiting us this month and speaking on the 13th. This recently cataloged tape, featuring Smith and Moore in Tokyo, seems to resonate  with some of our latest blog entries and a set of somewhat disparate events.

-Dan Partridge

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